Amid the growing distrust between people and technology companies who are allegedly in bed with surveillance agencies, Google has taken some steps to protect the privacy of people using the internet globally. This is especially relevant after Snowden revealed that Google was collaborating with the US Government to facilitate spying on its users. While Google specifically denies this charge, it seems it cannot exactly reveal the actual terms of its data sharing with the Government due to shady legal bindings.
At a special presentation in New York a few days ago, Google (Google Ideas) revealed two new services which are specifically made to ensure freedom of expression on the web. The first service, uProxy is designed for citizens in any part of the world to bypass country level surveillance and securely communicate with people elsewhere in the world. They can also get access to uncensored content on the web and thus learn more about happenings in the world rather than falling prey to their government’s propaganda. This applies to dictatorial regimes which resort to censorship and heavy handedness to maintain their control on their countries.
The service has not been developed at Google though. It is a University of Washington and a Brave New Software project which has been funded by Google. One of the major implications of services like this is the usage of this tool in China which enforces a firewall censoring a lot of content and services all together. uProxy will work on Chrome and Firefox but not on Internet Explorer initially. This is slightly weird because there might still be a large amount of people who access the Internet via IE. Apparently, savvy web users in China have already used something like this to bypass the Chinese firewalls. Google’s product simplifies this to make this more accessible. Check out this video below to see how it works.
The second service the web company announced is called Project Shield, which aims to use Google’s infrastructure to protect news websites and human rights groups from targeted distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks by nefarious radical web outfits. The recent hackings by the Syrian Electronic Army, which is targeting quite a few new websites like BBC News, Associated Press, Al Jazeera and so on. These politically motivated attacks are fundamentally opposite to the freedom of open expression on which the web is founded. Google’s network infrastructure is quite huge and this is a result of their services being used all over the world. Thus they can withstand a lot of DDOS attacks. Getting news organizations on their infrastructure would give these outlets a free platform to report news without suffering the flack for doing so.
Besides these services, the company also revealed a real-time digital attack map which tells you who is getting digitally attacked and where. You can see this map here.
While these new products seem very helpful on the surface, there is still a lot of transparency expected from Google. Google Ideas is headed by a former US State Department Official, Jared Cohen and this means that these services are furthering US policy out there in the world. However, recent revelations of the NSA snooping is in stark contrast to the freedom of expression and privacy being furthered by the US.
What are your thoughts on these new tools? Share them with us in the comments.